It’s that time of year for insects and bugs to start coming out. Although some spring and summer bugs are fun to spot and look at, like butterflies and ladybugs, a lot of them can be a nuisance or cause damage to your lawn and garden. A yard swarming with insects can quickly make the days of spring and summer go downhill. After all, who doesn’t enjoy afternoons sunning by the pool or throwing a football? Some of the most common lawn insects at this time are fire ants, mole crickets, chinch bugs, grub worms and spittlebugs.
1. Fire Ants
Fire ants are an invasive species that were accidentally imported into the United States from South America in the 1930s. Signs of a fire ant infestation include loosely constructed mounds throughout the lawn. These ants are usually bright orange in color, which is what gave them the name “fire” ants. Fire ants don’t only bite at the heels of you or your pet’s feet—they can also harm lawns by disrupting the moisture and root systems that keep it healthy. Mowing and maintenance becomes more difficult with these mounds spread out throughout the yard as well. Learn more about fire ants here.
Mole crickets are unsightly insects that burrow into the ground beneath your grass to feed on its roots. You can identify a mole cricket infestation by spotting the entrances to their tunnels, which push up soil and grass, and the presence of dying grass. Mole crickets are about 1–2 inches in length and have large front claws they use for digging. Left untreated, these little guys can destroy an entire lawn. Another sign of mole crickets is actual moles inhabiting your soil. If you start noticing mole tunnels, you can almost bet there are mole crickets or some other pest damaging your lawn that the moles are feeding on. Learn more about mole crickets here.
Largely known for their love of St. Augustine lawns and other turfgrasses alike, chinch bugs can demolish an entire yard given the right amount of time. They suck on the blades of grass and then inject the grass blades with poison found in their saliva that stops water movement within the blade. As a result grass turns yellow and dies. Over time, chinch bugs move outward, creating large patches of dead grass. Chinch bugs ideally prefer heavily fertilized lawns and grass with heavy thatch layers for them to feed and nest in. Check out our chinch bug blog for more information on identification and treatment methods.
Grub worms are the some of the most infamous lawn insects known for their ability to kill grass below the soil by feeding on its roots and eating grass blades as well as other vegetation once they’ve turned into adult beetles. A good way to tell if grub worms are invading your lawn are by spotting an increased presence in burrowing mammals like moles, noticing an increased amount of weeds due to your lawn weakening or spotting dying and damaged areas of grass. Examine several soil selections throughout your lawn and garden. The size of the soil selections you collect should be 3–4 inches in length and four inches deep. If you find more than five grub worms per square foot, treatment is necessary. Grub worms are cream-colored, have six legs located at the front of their body and usually curl into a “C” shape. Learn more here.
Spittlebugs mostly live and feed on the blades of centipedegrass, however, they can be found in other types of grasses like St. Augustine, for example. The best way to identify these pesky insects is by actually spotting them in your lawn. Walking through your lawn will usually cause them to start hopping around, making it really easy to spot them. Spittlebugs are small insects with wings that are black or dark brown. They usually have two bright red or orange stripes running across their backs. If you suspect a spittlebug problem, you can also take a closer look at the grass. You may notice a frothy substance down in the thatch layer that nymphs typically live in or a purple or white stripe down the grass blade. Learn more here.
Although insects are becoming more active at this time, there are still some things you can do to prevent a full-blown invasion. One idea is to remove any layers of thatch in your lawn that insects can live and nest in. Insects love living in thatch layers because it offers protection for them and their eggs. It also serves as a great source of food for them to live off of. Another idea is to apply a systemic insecticide like Merit 0.5G at a preventative rate to keep insects from taking over. Lastly, clean up your yard as much as possible by removing items insects and bugs can hide under like toy slides, flower pots or other lawn ornaments. Be sure to read product labels thoroughly before making any applications to your lawn and garden.